In his first hard court match since losing to Vasek Pospisil in March 2017, Andy Murray will hope to reignite his comeback from a serious hip injury when he takes on American young gun Mackenzie McDonald. The Scot looked promising during his brief return on the grass courts and after the successful comebacks of his three great rivals, he will surely have his sights set high. But McDonald will be equally determined to score the win against such a big name. Who will come out on top?
Perhaps unsurprisingly considering McDonald’s relatively late coming to the Tour and Murray’s extended recent absence, this will be their first meeting. But in terms of experience, Murray has a dominant advantage. He has a career record of 656-186 and has claimed 45 titles from 67 finals. McDonald has played only 16 Tour-level matches in his career and has never reached a final. He is comparatively tried and tested this year, however, having played 12 Tour matches to Murray’s 3.
Last time out
Murray may have lost two of the three grass court matches he played before withdrawing from Wimbledon, but the signs were broadly positive nonetheless. He moved well in defeat to Kyrgios at Queen’s before running out of steam in the deciding set, losing 6-2 6-7 5-7. He then played in Eastbourne, where he dismissed Stan Wawrinka, who is having his own struggles with injury, 6-1 6-3 before falling to Kyle Edmund 4-6 4-6.
McDonald’s grass court campaign, meanwhile, was an almost unqualified success. He reached the quarterfinals in Rosmalen, losing to eventual runner-up Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-4 6-7. He then failed to qualify into Queen’s, losing in the final round of qualifying to top seed Julien Benneteau before putting together an excellent run at the Championships. He scored victories over Ricardas Berankis, Nicolas Jarry and Guido Pella before losing he lost in four to 2016 finalist Milos Raonic.
How do they match up?
At his best Murray is one of the foremost baseliners the sport has ever produced. Equipped with a rock solid forehand, which he is comfortable injecting power into, and an excellent backhand, there are precious few that can take him on from the back of the court and win. His defensive skills are the most impressive element of his game, with only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal his superiors in that department. His second serve, however, is one chink in his armour.
McDonald will need to do all he can to exploit it as on paper he is outmatched in all other departments by the Scot. His serving will also receive a stern examination from Murray’s returning, with Murray likely to make more returns than McDonald is used to and to do so with greater aggression than most. If, however, McDonald is able to turn this into a physical battle he may be rewarded as Murray is likely to still be some way short of full match fitness.
Based on the level Murray showed on the grass and the weeks of uninterrupted practice he has had on hard courts since, it seems fair to assume he will be in good shape ahead of this one. And though he may be a little rusty and short of intensity, McDonald is also taking to the court for the first time in nearly three weeks. It should be a fairly level playing field then, and under those circumstances it is hard to back against the Briton. Murray in straight sets.